The familiar sectional tournament, where a dozen or so schools come together at one site to battle for a district championship, might not look so familiar in the future.
The Central District, which encompasses schools in the Columbus area, is experimenting with a new format this season in which each game of the sectional tournament will be played on the home court of the highest-seeded team before the remaining four teams gather at a neutral site for the district.
The hope is the change, combined with a lower price of $4 for student tickets, will attract bigger crowds to the often one-sided opening games.
There’s been no hint the change will be implemented here, which makes some area coaches happy.
“I like the neutral site myself, I don’t really care for this idea,” Avon Lake coach Dave Zvara said. “It’s going to be a bigger crowd for the home team and it’s going to create an even bigger advantage for the top teams. If the No. 1 seed is playing the No. 12 seed, how many fans is the No. 12 seed really going to bring? I don’t like anything about it.”
While Lorain County’s Division I and II schools have sectional draws with teams no farther away than Cleveland, the Division III and IV sectionals combine schools from six or more counties. A two-hour bus ride to a game wouldn’t be unheard of.
Elyria Catholic coach Eric Rothgery, whose Panthers already face a 53-mile one-way trip to Barberton for tournament play, sees both sides of the home-court debate.
“It would put more emphasis on your seeding and getting a home game,” Rothgery said. “It’s good if you’re one of the top-seeded teams … but if we had to go out to (Burton) Berkshire on a school night I would not be happy. That would be a great advantage for them.”
Rothgery also pointed out that moving the games from a neutral site to the home schools would reduce some of the special feel of tournament basketball.
“There’s something kind of special about the tournament atmosphere,” he said. “Over at Elyria, the Division II girls play three games on Presidents Day, which gives you a chance to see a lot of teams. That would all be lost. The host schools do a really good job of making the tournament something special. If you were at home it would seem like just another home game.”
Clearview coach Nick Dimacchia points out that the format used in the Central District gives an extra advantage to the highest-seeded team, yet he would be in favor of adding another new wrinkle.
“I’d take it a step further,” Dimacchia said. “I think they should go to a typical bracket, like they use in college, where the teams are placed on the bracket by seed and then let the top seeds play at home. Sometimes if you get a good seed another team will jump on you early in the draw and you lose the advantage of a favorable opening matchup.”
Vermilion’s AuBree LaForce might have to make room on her mantel for another game ball.
Last month, the 5-foot-2 senior broke the 1,000-point career scoring mark. Now, with three games left in the regular season, she’s just 28 points away from becoming the all-time leading scorer in Sailors history.
Jill Dodson set the record of 1,135 points in 1997. LaForce is averaging 17.9 points per game.
LaForce said she has been motivated to break the record since she was a young child and Dodson was her babysitter.
“It’s always been a goal of mine,” said LaForce, who is averaging 17.9 points a game. “I have all the records hanging on my wall. My mom made a poster of them for me when I was little. At the start of the season I knew (the record) was reachable so I knew I had to work really hard to get it.”
Under first-year coach Colin Irish, Vermilion has had more success this year than it’s had in recent memory. LaForce said that winning makes her accomplishments even more meaningful.
“When you’re not winning and you’re scoring, it’s just not the same,” she said. “I’m really excited about the chance to break the record, but I’m more excited about the rest of our season because we’re really coming together as team, and we could really shock some people come tournament time.”
Irish said he has been impressed by LaForce in the short time he’s been with the Vermilion program.
“She’s a great leader and a hard worker,” Irish said. “I’m enjoying the opportunity to coach her. The thing that sets AuBree apart is her dedication. She’s dedicated in the classroom, on the basketball court and to her family. For someone to excel in not just one sport, but three sports, and to maintain a 4.4 gpa speaks to her character.”
Player of the week
Hannah Bartlome, Vermilion
- YEAR: Junior
- POSITION: Guard
- OTHER SPORTS: Track, soccer
- LAST WEEK: Has averaged 16 points over her last three games, beginning with a 20-point effort in a 56-42 loss to Elyria Catholic. Followed that with 18 points in a 55-46 win at defending West Shore Conference champion Rocky River and then scored 10 in a 48-35 win over Bay.
- BIO: Enjoys playing all sports as well as biking and drawing. Her favorite band is The White Stripes and her favorite video game is Guitar Hero. Her top sports memory is finishing second in the high jump and 100 meter relay and third in the 200 meter relay at last year’s state track meet. She is a fan of NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, and while she has not decided on a college, she is planning on majoring in physical therapy. Her favorite subject is precalculus.
- Parents: Doug and Annette
Contact Todd Shapiro at (216) 233-6761 or firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate players of the week or submit items for this notebook. Nominations are accepted Sunday and Monday of each week.